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Changes after a brain injury

Vision changes

A brain injury can damage the area of the brain that allows you to see. Problems with vision (eyesight) make life even harder if you have a brain injury.

An eye doctor will decide if you need treatment (like surgery or glasses). Sometimes you’ll need to learn new skills to cope with changes to vision.

How do we see?

Your vision depends on your eyes and brain working together.

  • The eyes move together and focus on something.
  • Nerves at the back of your eye (retina) send messages to your brain through the optic nerve.
  • The occipital lobe at the back of your brain gets these messages and makes sense of what you see.

If any of these steps go wrong, you have changes to your vision.

Vision problems that can happen after brain injury

The type of vision problem depends on where the brain injury is and if other parts of the head and face are injured.

Blurred vision

With blurred vision, things close up may be clear, but things further away are blurred into the background.

Double vision

Double vision (diplopia) happens when the eyes don’t move together at the same time. This causes you to see 2 of everything. It also makes it hard to decide exactly where things are.

When you have double vision, you likely bump into furniture or drop or spill things. You may need an eye patch, eye taping, or glasses with prism lenses to help you see better.

To help someone with double vision, keep furniture in the same place and don’t move it without telling them.

Drooping eyelid

A drooping eyelid (ptosis) may block vision in that eye. This can make you:

  • feel dizzy
  • judge distances poorly, like not seeing where steps are
  • have trouble knowing how fast things and people are moving towards you
  • have trouble pouring liquids from one container to another


Hemianopia is blindness in 1/2 of each eye.

Vision loss

Damage to some parts of the nervous system that sends messages from the eyes to the brain may cause vision loss. This can range from some vision loss to complete vision loss. There may also be some vision loss in one or both eyes.

When you have vision loss, you may:

  • notice objects seem to suddenly appear or disappear
  • bump into things
  • not turn your head to the side with vision loss
  • not see food on one side of your plate
  • lose track of your place on a page when you’re reading or writing
  • cut words in half when reading

Tips for family and caregivers

  • Remind them to look to both sides, especially the side with the vision problem.
  • Mark “on” and “off” on switches (like a TV and kitchen appliances). Use bright pieces of tape so they can tell when it’s on or off.
  • Put bright objects or favourite things on the side with the vision loss and ask them to turn their head until they see them.
  • Make the font or print size bigger.
  • Draw a straight, bright-coloured line down one side of a book or notebook to show the edge of the page. Do this on the right side of the page if the vision problem is on this side and on the left side if it’s that side.​

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